LETTER:No place for kids
As your local Medical Health Officer for Surrey, I want our community to be aware that about one in five children live in poverty in B.C., according to the recently released 2007 Child Poverty Report Card, from First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.
This report indicates that our province has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for four years in a row (www.firstcallbc.org).
Canada and B.C. can do a better job of fighting child poverty. We do better than the U.S. but worse than other developed countries. Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden do best – after government intervention only 2.5 to 4.2 per cent of their children still live in poverty. This did not hurt their economies. All these countries were in the World Economic Forum’s top 10 for global competitiveness in 2005.
More times than not, poor families are hard-working families. Over half of B.C.’s poor children live in families where at least one person had a full-time job.
Single-parent families are hit especially hard. Almost half of B.C. children living with single moms are poor.
Any child living in poverty will tell you that it hurts and means more than being hungry and not having a warm coat. A poor child can be afraid to tell her parents that she needs a calculator or gym shoes. A poor child can be teased at school because of his clothes, have to pretend that he forgot his lunch, and be unable to participate in sports due to what others consider minimal fees. A poor child can’t afford healthy food.
Children living in poverty go hungry more often, are injured and get sick more often, do less well in school and are less likely to graduate from high school. When they grow up, they have more health problems, difficulty finding jobs and are more likely to be poor.
British Columbia needs to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens, and ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Other countries and other Canadian provinces have done it; we can too.
Medical Health Officer
Fraser Health Authority